UNBELIEVABLE SHIT IN THE AIR
A woman peddling lazily back from a morning on South Beach was broadsided by a gigantic wild turkey that flew directly into her. She toppled over into the ditch, screaming. It was an instance of astoundingly unbelievable shit that I had witnessed with my own eyes.
I bet you were worried I was being literal — that “unbelievable shit” is about some massive movement I pushed ages ago and was shocked at my output. Like, “holy crap, that is a lot of shit.”
No, this entry is intended for the skeptical rather than scatological. However, I do remember taking an unbelievable shit so remarkable, I tried to recruit bystanders to behold it.
My grandfather, a former member of Merrill’s Marauders in World War II, instructed me to flush it immediately with an exaggerated point out of the room. “That isn’t anything anyone would want to see.”
That unbelievable shit happened in a bathroom just a few miles and a decade more away from the astounding turkey attack at Herring Creek and Slough Cove roads. I was the only witness for both of these instances of unbelievable shit.
And without evidence, my monstrous movement and foul fowl are but fantasy. And I understand why. The Earth regularly offers unbelievable shit to its inhabitants.
For instance, the Earth has a thing about raining down weird shit from the sky, bats, fish, snakes, birds, frogs, and jellies. The “Great Kentucky Meat Shower” of 1876 rained bits of mutton or venison or something more scientifically explainable from the sky. I bet residents ran out of their homes wielding umbrellas and steak knives.
WITHOUT PROOF, YOU HAVE NO PROOF
And if we account for human error, there have been far more astoundingly dangerous things to fall from the sky, like when our military nearly blew up North Carolina.
Today’s kids are probably scratching their heads. “There wasn’t an ancient TikTok, Vine, or antiquated YouTube video of our military accidentally crashing into North Carolina strapped with two armed thermonuclear bombs?!” They might ask.
There were no cameras, no witnesses, only freedom of information provisions.
In the years before the Millennium, we had to carry a camera if we wanted to take pictures of things. We didn’t have devices that were both phones and cameras.
So if you wanted to catch something on video, you would have to carry an entirely different camera.
And because cameras in the olden days didn’t make phone calls and didn’t have social media or email or online shopping apps — we had no reason to constantly lug them around.
So these devices weren’t always at the ready during moments of unbelievable shit. We would only break them out after an event and could only document aftermaths.
Say you were to witness spontaneous human combustion. Like, you were at your Nan’s house, and she just “wooshes” into flame right in front of you. Before the advent of social media and viral video clout-chasing, you would just run to a phone and dial 911.
Maybe you would take a photo of the charred fallout for evidentiary or insurance purposes. And you would probably never go about talking of it with anyone other than the cops. Possibly Time-Life Books, but more on that in a second.
There are no FOIA requests for Earthly events. No way to compel the universe to “do that shit again.”
AND SO, LEGENDS ARE BORN FROM UNBELIEVABLE SHIT
Even if you ever decided the woeful tale of Nan impossibly catching fire without any apparent ignition source had to be passed along — there isn’t anyone sober who would believe you.
Perhaps the dude in sunglasses that perches the same shadowy corner of the bar every night would. He constantly mutters how random business magnates make up the Illuminati. And they have plans to wipe out all of humanity by bombing the Yellowstone Super Volcano into an eruption.
I’m confident that dude would believe you witnessed Nan spontaneously combust. And then that shadowy dude would reach into his trench coat and pull out his decades-old copy of Time Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown. “Read this, kid.”
That’s how I learned of spectacularly strange spectral stories that spanned astral projection, to the Bell Witch, to space aliens.
A section of Mysteries of the Unknown was dedicated to spontaneous human combustion. It included gruesome photos of empty half-charred chairs where a human had ostensibly been sitting just before bursting into flames.
Black and white photos of smoldered chairs, burnt carpets, and more gruesome bric-a-brac.
Any other specifics will be laid out in blocks of text recounting soberly how a human can mysteriously catch fire sans external ignition.
I believe I read that the fires emanate from the pelvic region. And I can personally attest to how warm the body can get in that area where the (ahem) family jewels are stored. When I get super sick and have the chills, I pull every blanket over myself and hold my hands over my nuts like it were a barrel fire.
Wait – we’re worried about vulgarity now? I’ve talked about pooping on Martha’s Vineyard in the 1980s (and did a blog about pooping on airplanes). That was nothing.
YOUR TRUTHS ARE BORING
Most astonishing tales outside of comic book universes probably have exceedingly dull and explainable backstories.
Could spontaneous human combustion be some poor soul that nodded off while smoking? One would need not search long in news feeds to realize how dangerous falling asleep with a lit cigarette could be.
However, I suspect that if Time-Life Books were to have released a Solved Mysteries series, with sober reporting on depressingly dull ways to die — no one would ever buy that shit. Matching photos of carnage-strewn scenes with boring copy about someone accidentally immolating themselves … sounds like a dispiriting picture book.
Yet if you add the possibility that any of us could engulf ourselves in fire after shouting “flame on!” That is some fun escapist shit.
And because there was no exploding commercial internet giving people their fill of weird. A place that would eventually catalog the universe of unbelievable shit granularly. Giving users options for their own brand of refined unbelievable shit.
We were forced to be entertained by the broad strokes of weirdness printed or over the airwaves. Robert Stack and Art Bell loom as broadcast giants of the unexplained, and shows mainly were dealer’s choice. If you wanted anything specific, you would need to subscribe to a magazine, or had to attend a seance, or pop into a UFO convention.
OR GO TO A LIBRARY
And find Time Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown. Which collects several flavors of generations of fantastical shit into a set of yearbook-shaped publications.
There’s are pages covering ghosts, cults, magic, aliens — and unfortunately, some of these fantastic tales might obscure more astonishing and more concrete truths.
Somewhere in the Mysteries of the Unknown set, there is a splash page of fantastic artwork that presents the Spirit of St. Louis dodging waterspouts over an angry Atlantic. A ghost man flies just above the airplane.
Reading the accompanying text clues in how Charles Lindbergh astral projected himself to navigate his plane through a tempest. That’s fantastic and probably bullshit.
And yet nowhere near as astonishing as learning that American hero Lindbergh was probably into eugenics, his child met with tragedy after an apparent botched kidnapping. Lindbergh was likely cool with Naziism too.
What an unbelievable turkey, amirite?
SPEAKING OF TURKEYS
The only reason I was able to witness the wild turkey do some unbelievable shit was because I had to get to work. My sister was using the car. So, I would need to whip out my thumb and hitch a ride from Katama into Edgartown.
I needed to hike from Young Street to Crafts Field Way to Slough Cove Road and then walk backward with my hand exposed on Herring Creek Road. Many folks returning from the beach meant I would have plenty of chances at a ride.
That afternoon I was at the intersection of Slough Cove and Herring Creek, trailing a large wild turkey gobbling to itself. The Turkey and I were about twenty or so feet apart.
We had walked in a line for long enough that I began to worry it may eventually stop — turn on me and then angrily squawk for following it so closely. Maybe it would chase me, and I would run away screaming. That’d be embarrassing.
The turkey was thoroughly chill, though; it just meandered, muttering to itself the whole way. It got to the lip of the intersection and started flapping its wings. At first, as if to stretch or flick off bugs.
Then the flapping came franticly — it lumbered itself forwards in flight. I assumed it meant to furiously flap itself above Herring Creek before landing in the manicured grass runways of the Katama Airport.
That’s when I noticed the woman whizzing north on her ten-speed bike. A towel draped around her neck.
Her face showed concentration on the road, yet there was almost an air of enchantment in her movements. I mean, anyone who has a day off to do whatever they wish and has a beach nearby is a magical creature to me. I had a nine-hour shift of folding t-shirts in a shop on Main to look forward to.
Maybe the sand from the beach flaked off her like trailing pixie dust. And yet it wasn’t her destiny to fly – she would fall hard into a ditch.
This is where the bits of this episodic memory start to congeal, if that makes sense, like progressing through ancient photographs to high-definition multi-framed video feeds.
I remember thinking, “wait, turkeys can fly?!” It only got a few feet airborne as it lumbered through the air. Whizzed over the yellow line. And bowling-balled into the woman’s left axilla. She threw her arms out, shrieking.
Her front wheel wobbled rapidly – kicked into a jackknife, then unwound, leading the bike in a new direction, the ditch. The woman looked to be attempting a cartwheel on wheels – and then everything collapsed and slid into grass.
I ran over – the woman was up instantly, brushing away at invisible spiders, screaming. The turkey limped around a tight circle muttering sharp squawks and other complaints.
“What did you do?!” The woman shrieked, and at first, I thought she was talking to the turkey. I was waiting for the angry question to dissipate as they usually do when someone yells at the universe.
Her crystal-blue eyes emblazoned on mine; a crust of sand clung to a few of the strands of hair in her face. She was shouting at me.
DON’T GET MAD IN BICYCLE SHOES
Also, don’t get angry wearing bicycle equipment. You will look ridiculous.
There have been enough obnoxious cyclists atop the pantheon of historically ridiculous people that would necessitate you kicking off your cycling shoes before getting in someone’s face. You don’t want to be memorialized as a psycho with a bike.
Last winter, my girls got into a shouting match over a toy. I marched my ass over and started shouting down all the racket. “Both of you are in timeout – both of you in timeout, now!”
As I started to disperse sullen children toward their timeout zones, I realized I was wearing goddamn cycle cleats. It felt like I was suddenly the Falling Down cyclist that lost it on a bunch of kids putting up Black Lives Matter fliers.
Don’t go ham in cycling paraphernalia – you’re going to look ridiculous, and it’s going to trend on Twitter.
IN THE END
Honestly, the aftermath alone of the turkey v. bike woman event would have trended. The woman’s shell-shaped red helmet was precisely the color of a clown nose and looked bonkers paired with her fury.
The turkey paced in circles muttering angrily. The woman’s right wheel still spun slowly. And accusations of ambush abounded.
Why couldn’t I have had a goddamn videocamera?!
Twitter would have loved an aggrieved lady ripping me a new one while also wearing a bicycle helmet and a beach towel around her waist. A wounded animal circling in the background.
And yet, without evidence, it is lost to the ages of all the other unbelievable shit that occurred before cellphone cameras and social media.
Could UFOs be real? Might you burst into flames while taking a dump? Did you witness a turkey fly into a woman riding a bike? Does it matter if you didn’t record it?
It’s like my dad said when I warned him the woman might call – she made me give her their phone number. “Better hope she doesn’t call the police,” he said, “they won’t believe your side of the story.”